Disrupt You

“Everyone thinks of changing the world but no one thinks of changing herself” Leo Tolstoy

This week I have the utmost privilege to work with Lisa Messenger & her awesome team at the Collective Hub and deliver a Master Class titled: Disrupt You. Ever since it was announced, I have been asked by lots of family and friends as to what disruption is, and in particular what self-disruption is.

Since Clayton Christensen coined the phrase “disruptive innovation” in his 1997 book ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’, scores of academics and management consultants have studied a range of industries and companies in order to identify and classify various forms of disruption. Christensen asserts that disruption relates those innovations that create new markets and value networks, thereby upending existing ones. Volumes of research and evidence show how disruptive thinking improves the odds of success for products, companies, even countries.

In fact Whitney Johnson in her seminal work ‘Disrupt Yourself’ states: “Six times higher. 20 times greater”. That is what the theory of disruption indicates will happen when you pursue a disruptive course. Your odds of success will be six times higher. Your revenue opportunities, 20 times greater. Not just where you are working, but for you! You don’t need to cope with the force of disruption. You can harness its power and unpredictability to propel you forward. And that is what the upcoming masterclass will be about.

Whether by choice or circumstance, every career gets disrupted. Our world and our jobs are getting transformed well beyond our current view. We look at a screen when we wake, when we work and for fun, even before we tuck in for the night. And when we sleep our phones have become our teddy bears. We are living like Bill Murray in our own digital ground hog day. It is not just us individually. Whole companies are being disrupted overnight.

The world’s largest hotel chain (AirBnB), owns no hotels. The worlds largest taxi chain (Uber), owns no cars. The world’s largest media company (Facebook), creates no content. And the world’s largest retailer (Alibaba), has no inventory. We are living in an era of endless innovation. Century year old companies are being replaced almost overnight by self made billionaires in their twenties. But the downside is that with ever escalating credit card debt, household debt and our national debt we are now working longer hours, for more years, for less disposable income.

Success comes from solving problems for others and our world has plenty of problems. Everyone wants to change the world. But no one thinks of changing him or herself. Find your unique voice and the world will listen. Our world is disrupting at an ever-increasing pace. 3D printing will eliminate 320M manufacturing jobs. Self-driving vehicles will displace tens of millions more. Office automation will cull corporate jobs in half. Your career will be disrupted. But you are not a set of car keys or a disposable razor. You have a choice.

Disruption isn’t about what happens to you. It is about how you respond to what happens to you.

In a personal context, I see disruption as change that creates positive impact. Or in particular: momentum that overcomes inertia. I believe that disruption can also work on a personal level, not just for entrepreneurs who launch disruptive companies; but for people who work within and move between organizations. Zigzagging career paths may be common now, but the people who zigzag best don’t do it randomly.

Not everyone has to abandon the traditional path, of course. For most the status quo is ok. Certainly if you’re working toward an ambitious and potentially achievable goal, such as managing a division at your company or winning a C-suite job in your industry, disruption is unnecessary. You’re pursuing what Christensen calls sustaining innovation: when a company gets better at what it’s already doing and provides more value to existing customers. But, if as an individual you’ve reached a plateau or you suspect you won’t be happy at the top rung of the ladder you’re climbing, you should disrupt yourself for the same reasons that companies must.

First and foremost, you need to head off the competition. As you continue to improve along the dimensions of performance that the employment market has historically valued, you risk overshooting demands. What you do reliably, if not brilliantly well, can be done just as effectively by many peers—and perhaps more swiftly and affordably by up-and-comers.

Second, consider the greater rewards that disruption may bring. It’s true that disruptive innovation in business tends to start out as a low-cost alternative to existing products or services, and of course you don’t want to embrace a career strategy that reduces your own price point. But when you disrupt yourself, you vector to a new set of metrics. In some cases, you might initially take a pay cut in return for a steeper trajectory; after all, the endgame of disruption is higher demand for what you produce. In other cases, you might even boost your pay while still undercutting the competition in your new role, organization, or industry. Remember, too, that when it comes to personal disruption, compensation is not just financial. Psychological and social factors also matter.

Companies don’t disrupt. People do. Pursuing a disruptive course isn’t just a nice thing to do, there is a compelling business case: the odds of success are 6x higher and the revenue opportunity is 20x greater. The most fundamental unit of disruption is the individual. The best way to drive corporate innovation is through personal disruption.

This week at the Masterclass we will go through the 3 stages that an individual has to go through on the journey of personal disruption (dare, design, do,). By harnessing the power of personal disruption, we can move from being stuck to unstuck, and create value for our companies and ourselves where it didn’t before exist. To change who you are you must change who you think you are. It is time to disrupt you.

Self-Disruption – the initiation

  • Whether driven by ambition or circumstance, every life and career gets disrupted. Define disruption as it applies to your life and your career. What is making you think about disruption at this moment? How are changes in your work affecting you? What will happen if you don’t change?
  • Write down your fears about being disrupted? Are you worried about losing your job? Could your company go out of business? How are changes in technology and the economy impacting your future? Are their local or government issues that are affecting your stability? Be specific about the obstacles ahead of you.
  • What is the one thing you would hope to change about yourself? What personal traits do you believe are holding you back from attaining success? How do your co-workers and bosses perceive you? What shortcomings do others say you have? What have employers noted on your performance reviews in the past?
  • Is there anything holding you back from making a change in your life?
  • What do you risk losing if you try to disrupt your life?
  • Who is telling you that you can’t have success? Did they give up on their dreams and is that why they want you to give up on yours?
  • Are you willing to change?
  • Are you capable of change?

Do you believe in yourself?

Next week’s blog will delve deeper into the three steps that enable Self-Disruption.

Back to Blog

Get Mark's thought-provoking exploration straight into your inbox